Archeology and Biblical Criticism Part VI: Archeology and Neo-Orthodoxy -- By: Joseph P. Free

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 114:455 (Jul 1957)
Article: Archeology and Biblical Criticism Part VI: Archeology and Neo-Orthodoxy
Author: Joseph P. Free

Archeology and Biblical Criticism
Part VI:
Archeology and Neo-Orthodoxy

Joseph P. Free

[Joseph P. Free is Fred McManus Professor of Bible Archeology and Department Chairman at Wheaton (Illinois) College. He is Director of the Wheaton Bible Land Cruises and Director of the archaeological excavations at Dothan.]

The Late Date of Mosaic Law

We have seen that the liberal view has regularly held in the past that much of Mosaic law was codified hundreds of years after the time of Moses, much of it in the ninth to the seventh centuries B.C., and some as late as 500 B.C.

It is significant that in the Westminster Study Edition of the Bible there is some survival of this idea of the lateness of some of Mosaic law. It indicates that not all of the material in Exodus 20 was in the original. This is pointed out in the footnote to Exodus 20:1 which says: “The original Commandments were probably lacking the explanatory notes appended for example in vv. 5, 6, 9–11 ” (p. 119, footnote to verse 1). This leaves room for parts of the Mosaic material to have been added later.

There is no need, however, to date any of Mosaic law late. Archeological discoveries have caused a recognition of the fact that advanced laws preceded the time of Moses by many centuries. The Code of Hammurabi, found 1901–02, and dating from the period 2000-1700 B.C., was one of the early discoveries to show the existence of early advanced laws preceding the time of Moses. In succeeding years of the twentieth century, the Hittite code, the Assyrian code, and more recently Sumerian law codes have been found. The Lipit-Ishtar code was published in 1947 and the code of Bilalama in 1948.

Another significance of the statement that the explanatory parts of the Ten Commandments constituted a later addition is pointed out by Oswald T. Allis: “It will be noted that the elimination of these ‘explanatory notes’ makes the meaning

and implication of the Commandments much less definite and precise. Thus, if the Second Commandment is reduced to the form, ‘Thou shalt not make unto thee a graven image,’ the inference is at least possible, and it has been drawn by prominent critics, that other kinds of image worship were tolerated even if not authorized….Consequently many of the critics, especially those who are disposed to regard this abbreviated Decalogue as Mosaic, are prepared to mai...

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